White bison calf drawing more people to Irvine Park ZooDuring a recent visit to Irvine Park Zoo, Rose Ann West was startled to see one of the zoo's new attractions -- a newborn white bison.
By: By Chris Vetter, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
CHIPPEWA FALLS -- During a recent visit to Irvine Park Zoo, Rose Ann West was startled to see one of the zoo's new attractions -- a newborn white bison.
"It's beautiful," said West, 59, of Holcombe. "We didn't know about it. It was exciting."
West isn't alone in her affinity for the white baby calf, one of three baby bison born at the zoo in June. The animal, the first white bison born at the park in at least a dozen years, is attracting more visitors than usual to the zoo.
"People go by all the time and they always comment on the buffalo," zookeeper Jennifer London said.
Dick Hebert, director of the Chippewa Falls Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, said the young animal has turned some heads of visitors to the park.
"We're very fortunate to have it," Hebert said. "It's a rare animal. It's created a lot of enthusiasm in our zoo. It's one of our major attractions."
Jesse Niblett, 20, of Chippewa Falls said he goes through the park once a week to view animals. Having a white bison is a major attraction for the zoo, he said.
"A white buffalo is rare. That in itself is cool," Niblett said.
It is unclear how long the calf will call Irvine Park home. London said the male bison tend to be aggressive and the animal could be moved out a year from now.
"The boys will be leaving because they are getting a little rough," London said. "They pose no threat now because they are calves."
The park obtains its animals from Mark Schoebel, who owns Animal Entertainments, based in Neshkoro, about an hour north of Madison.
Schoebel has provided animals to Irvine Park Zoo since 1981. He might move the white bison calf to a larger zoo, London said.
"I'm sure he's worth some money," she said. "Some other zoo might want to buy him."
The other two newborns, both brown, weigh 100 to 125 pounds, but the white bison is a bit bigger, likely between 125 and 150 pounds.
"The little ones are still nursing," London said.
The zoo didn't have any male bison a year ago, but then a full-grown white buffalo male, along with another adult male, were brought in. With the three newborn males, the zoo now has five males and five females. The bison have about 15 acres to roam, she said.
The city budgets about $150,000 annually for the zoo, which has free admission, Hebert said. That pays for a full-time zookeeper, a part-time worker, food, vitamins, testing, and other expenses.
Vetter can be reached at 715-723-0303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)
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